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The Best Debut Albums of 2018
EVERY year is filled with great albums...
IN THIS PHOTO: Noname/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
and, when it comes to the end of the year, how many critics focus on incredible debuts? I feel those artists who make a bold start are overlooked to an extent so, as this year’s best albums have already arrived; let’s take a look at the acts who have made a sensational entrance. It is always interesting heralding big debuts and wondering where that artist will head next. To celebrate bright newcomers who have dropped incredible debuts, I have collected together the ten finest of 2018. Who knows where they will go from here but, with great reviews under their belt, it is sure to be a very bright future. Many have celebrated and highlighted the best albums of 2018 but here, in isolation, are ten stunning albums from artists...
IN THIS PHOTO: Superorganism/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
TAKING their first big step.
ALL ALBUM COVERS: Getty Images
Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy
Release Date: 5th April, 2018
“Later, on the popping "Money Bag," she playfully laments "I been broke my whole life/I have no clue what to do with these racks!" She gets filthy on the explicit "Bickenhead" -- which samples its namesake Project Pat song with a little Blood twist -- that it could make Lil' Kim or Foxy Brown blush. Her chart-busting singles "Bodak Yellow" and "Bartier Cardi" are also included here, nestled with other tough-talking shots like "She Bad" with YG and "Drip" with fiancee Offset and his group Migos. The Latin trap "I Like It," with Bad Bunny and J Balvin, is a notable highlight, a potential chart-buster in waiting. Surprisingly, Invasion is not just sneering street bangers about her "money moves." Bittersweet infidelity dirge "Be Careful" finds Cardi yearning for a solid relationship with a real man, not an unfaithful one (all signs point to Offset). On "Ring," a smooth R&B jam that features Kehlani, Cardi is vulnerable, revealing a well of pain beneath her tough-as-nails facade. "Thru Your Phone" is unflinching and relatable, wherein Cardi burns with vengeance as she poisons her cheating man with bleach in his cereal and a good old-fashioned stabbing. It's cartoonish but real, a confession of thoughts that are all too familiar to the scorned. This balance between over-the-top party starters and thoughtful reflection makes Invasion of Privacy an impressive debut for a rising star who can back up her outspokenness with raw talent” – AllMusic
Elite Tracks: Bartier Cardi/I Like It/Ring
Standout Track: Bodak Yellow
Shame – Songs of Praise
Release Date: 12th January, 2018
Label: Dead Oceans
Producers: Dan Foat & Nathan Boddy
“First impressions and preconceptions do few bands many favours, but Shame seem to have had to work hard to shelve such opinions on ‘Songs Of Praise’. The power and ferocity with which they do so across the album - as well as its rollocking instrumentation and clear social conscience - makes it a triumph.
“In a time of such injustice, how can you not want to be heard?” Charlie offers in ‘Friction’, before he launches himself into a roaring chorus, and on ‘Songs Of Praise’, Shame shout louder than anyone else at the moment, and make a claim to become Britain’s best new band” – DIY
Elite Tracks: Dust on Trial/Donk/Friction
Standout Track: One Rizla
Miya Folick – Premonitions
Release Date: 26th October, 2018
Label: Terrible Records PS
“Those sugary hits of pop magic linger longer than they ought to; Folick knows how to reach heights that few others’ voices and songwriting can reach. ‘Baby Girl’ is a heart-rending tale of devotion (“Oh, lying on the bathroom floor / Laughing our heads off / Oh, crying in the alleyway Your head in my lap”), while the sharp pop production of ‘Dead Body’ and ‘Thingmajig’ allow space for an artist who continues to explore with leaps and bounds.
It’s a rare feat for an album to paint a picture that’s broad but intimate at the same time, but Folick has done it here. Her voice, songwriting and ascent are unstoppable; one would do best not to ignore her” – NME
Elite Tracks: Thingamajig/Premonitions/Stock Image
Standout Track: Stop Talking
Ashley McBryde – Girl Going Nowhere
Release Date: 30th March, 2018
Label: Warner Bros. Nashville
Producer: Jay Joyce
“But even when the core of the tune is just the smoky draw of her voice and an acoustic guitar, she makes her songs stick through the placement of sharp details. “Andy (I Can’t Live Without You)” finds a new twist on the familiar trope of a girl singing about a guy who she loves in spite of his bumbling ways by performing it as a heartfelt ballad rather than a winking goof. Similarly on “Tired of Being Happy,” McBryde’s humble reminder to an ex-lover that she’ll be there if his new relationship flames out is played with ample amounts of heat and distortion.
To some ears, then, Nowhere could sound like raw material to be crafted into some major hits for some major country stars. According to McBryde, that was potentially the case with the marvelous nose thumbing title track as apparently Garth Brooks had taken a shine to it. But luckily someone with her label or management team stepped in and put the brakes on him recording his own version of it before hers came out. These songs don’t need to be messed with or tarted up or given a 21st century shine. They work perfectly in their current roughshod, if gently polished, form. The needle may keep moving for female country artists, but that’s of little concern to McBryde. She’s on a journey toward career longevity and Nowhere is her confident and solid first step” – PASTE
Elite Tracks: Radioland/A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega/Home Sweet Highway
Standout Track: Girl Goin’ Nowhere
Snail Mail – Lush
Release Date: 8th June, 2018
Producer: Jake Aron
“Bedroom pop gets a hi-fi makeover on Snail Mail’s debut full-length, the appropriately titled Lush. Back in the ’90s, backing intimate confessions with swishing cymbals and professionally produced guitars would have been heresy, but 18-year-old singer-songwriter Lindsey Jordan is bound to no such orthodoxy. The emotional thrust of her music is the same, though, writing about unrequited crushes, boring parties, and the acute loneliness of standing alone in a suburban kitchen in the middle of the night. The self-assurance underlying Jordan’s lyrical vulnerability comes through in Lush’s anthemic dual-guitar approach, overlaid with her strong, clear voice and even a French horn on the melancholy “Deep Sea.” The crushing sameness of the existence described in Snail Mail’s music means that not every song on Lush is essential, but when Jordan hits, she hits a bullseye, with mini-indie masterpieces like “Pristine” and “Heat Wave” set to inspire another generation of songwriters” – A.V. Music
Elite Tracks: Pristine/Stick/Deep Sea
Standout Track: Heat Wave
Superorganism – Superorganism
Release Date: 2nd March, 2018
“The band can do shiny pop ("It's All Good," which has a crazy slowed-down Tony Robbins sample), introspective dream pop ("Reflections on the Screen"), slowly strutting Beck-like hip-hop ("SPRORGNSM"), and melancholy ballads ("Nai's March"), all with equal aplomb. When they kick into second gear, they make modern pop that equals the best around. "Everybody Wants to Be Famous" is a rollicking takedown of D-list culture complete with ringing cash-register percussion and a melt-in-your-mouth sweet vocal by Orono; "Something for Your M.I.N.D." is warped pop gold with subaquatic bass, a naggingly catchy vocal sample, and Orono's second most off-kilter lyrics (after "The Prawn Song"). Despite the somewhat cluttered and freewheeling exterior, it's clear that Superorganism know exactly what they are doing at all times, slicing and dicing like master chefs, then reassembling the bits and bobs of pop ephemera into a concoction that has a sugary kick sweeter and fizzier than an ice-cold cola” – AllMusic
Elite Tracks: Nobody Cares/Something for Your M.I.N.D./The Prawn Song
Standout Track: Everybody Wants to Be Famous
Noname – Room 25
Release Date: 14th September, 2018
“Noname’s evolution and personal growth since Telefone is evident throughout Room 25, but particularly on “Don’t Forget About Me,” which extends the introspection of “Forever” and many of the questions she began to grapple with on “Casket Pretty.” Backed by smooth yet stirring R&B melodics, Noname meditates on life, death, and the longevity of love, seeming to take comfort in the temporal limitations of being human. When she sings, “I know my body’s fragile, know it’s made from clay / But if I have to go, I pray my soul is still eternal / And my momma don’t forget about me,” the track becomes a sort of memento mori, highlighting the redemptive potential of mortality.
Equally gripping and swoon-worthy, “Regal” and “Montego Bae” showcase the breadth of Noname’s vocal prowess and the dynamic energy of her diction. Wrestling simultaneously with the impact and glory of cultural innovators like Oprah and Toni Morrison and the lure of sensuality and consumerism, she reminds her audience that to be human is to be many things at once: “So he gon’ fuck me like I’m Oprah, classy bitch only use a coaster / Now I’m swimmin’ in the money with a ducky too / Reading Toni Morrison in a nigga canoe / ’Cause a bitch really ’bout her freedom ’cause a bitch suckin’ dick in the new Adidas / And yes and yes, I’m problematic too” – A.V. Music
Elite Tracks: Prayer Song/Regal/Part of Me
Standout Track: Blaxploitation
Kali Uchis – Isolation
Release Date: 6th April, 2018
“Reciprocal guest appearances are made throughout. Tyler and Bootsy add sympathetic humor to the drifting BadBadNotGood groove "After the Storm," while Gorillaz' Damon Albarn lays out some festive Suicide synth pop for "In My Dreams." Elsewhere, numerous West Coast associates -- Sounwave, Larrance Dopson, DJ Dahi, Om'Mas Keith, and Thundercat among them -- add to the set's prevailing dazed, dreamlike feel. Uchisis never obscured by the productions, coolly expressive while casually threading clever imagery from song to song. Her writing is most vivid in one of the delightfully bent retro-soul numbers, "Feel Like a Fool": "My heart went through a shredder the day I learned about your baby mothers/'Cause you're a grown-ass man, now you should know better/But I still run all my errands in your sweater." For all its entertaining art-pop feats, Isolation is just as remarkable for serious moments like "Killer," in which Uchis reaches a high degree of anguish that only real-life experience can arouse” – AllMusic
Elite Tracks: Miami/Tyrant/Neustro Planeta
Standout Track: After the Storm
Soccer Mommy – Clean
Release Date: 3rd March, 2018
Label: Fat Possum
Producer: Gabe Wax
“Through the delicate opener “Still Clean” Soccer Mommy laments a relationship that doesn’t work out, but shifts gears to play with the “cool girl” trope on the record’s second single “Cool”. With “Your Dog” Soccer Mommy proves she does power pop as well as she does balladry, as she rails against an emotionally abusive relationship: “I'm not a prop for you to use/When you're lonely or confused/I want a love that lets me breathe/I’ve been choking on your leash.” But Soccer Mommy truly shines as she wistfully lilts, “You’re made from the stars/That we watched from your car,” about a lover who strays, on the album’s central anthem “Scorpio Rising”.
Despite the situations Soccer Mommy finds herself in, Clean isn’t just about the teenage experience: it’s a 10-track album that encapsulates emotions and situations that are as versatile as her sound. Whether you’re reminiscing about late-night make out sessions in high school or surrounded by plenty of “cool” girls in your city, Soccer Mommy’s introspection is something that defies age” – The Independent
Elite Tracks: Last Girl/Scorpion Rising/Last Girl
Standout Track: Your Dog
SOPHIE – OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES
Release Date: 15th June, 2018
Labels: MSMSMSM/Future Classic/Transgressive
“Her other mode of expression is the one she deployed on early tracks such as Hard: mechanistic dance tracks as sexual, tough and water-resistant as the prostate massagers she once sold as merch. But where once those tracks were tinny, here they have become steroidally imposing, gilded with distortion and industrial heft. Based around catchy chants, perfect for skipping rope games conducted by dominatrices, Ponyboy, Faceshoppingand the Aladdin-quoting Whole New World/Pretend World are dazzlingly brash and butch. Pretending is less successful – a stately bit of Tim Hecker-ish ambient, where her very particular sonics get lost in reverb – but it leads into the album’s biggest pop moment, Immaterial, where all the latent J-pop vibes get brought to the fore in a high-speed pachinko cacophony.
Despite software advances, so many electronic producers are content to lapse into nostalgia or a safe, compromised emotional range; Sophie has crafted a genuinely original sound and uses it to visit extremes of terror, sadness and pleasure” – The Guardian
Elite Tracks: Pony Boy/Faceshopping/Immaterial
Standout Track: It’s Okay to Cry